Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John 6:1-15 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
In this sermon, Jesus is preaching to us the words he spoke in the wilderness, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God.” This is a sermon in action. He is preaching by his deeds. This is a miracle which only faith can comprehend. And this miracle brings wonderful consolation to those who suffer scarcity in this life.
The first lesson Jesus teaches is his love and care for us. He went up into the mountain on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and when Jesus looked up, he saw a large crowd of people coming toward him. They were seeking him because of the signs he was doing on the sick.
And when Jesus sees this large crowd of people, numbering in the thousands, he turns to Philip and asks, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” This question is a sermon all by itself. For by this question we learn of Jesus’ great concern for us. He is concerned about what they would eat. He is concerned for us. He wants us to leave concern about ourselves to him and know that he cares for us more than we care for ourselves. He sees our needs and cares about us. He makes it his business to help us and provide for us. This sermon preaches with deeds what Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount: Do not be anxious saying, “what shall we eat?” Or “What shall we drink?” Or “What shall we wear?” Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But, seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.
He is concerned for you. He cares and he is aware of your needs. You are in his thoughts and in his heart and he is a God of action! Fear not!
But, you don’t get it. You are just like Philip when Jesus asked him, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” Thousands were coming to Jesus, and Philip looked at the people, and then looked at their resources and they had but 200 denarii in the treasury. Using good logic and correctly analyzing the situation, he answered, “Two-hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get even a little.” There is nothing we can do. We can’t afford to feed all these hungry people. It would bankrupt us.
Then Andrew came forward and said, “There is a boy here with five loaves of bread and two fish. But that is nothing compared to thousands of hungry people.” Better dismiss them and send them on their way. Perhaps they will find someone else to help them. Surely there must be a food bank down the street somewhere.
This is all a hideous lack of faith, stirred up by the devil himself. For faith is active in love. Faith serves the needs of others. Faith takes action. As God tells us in the Book of James, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…. Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.”
That is right where the disciples were. They didn’t have the resources to feed the hungry crowds, so they chose not to love. That is pretty much true for us as well. In fact, many of you are thinking, “Pastor, you’re a dreamer. This is impractical, it is not reasonable, God gave us brains to use and the ability to work and so we must do the work ourselves. But we can see that there is no way we can afford to do many things. Our resources are limited. We don’t have the money to put people and their needs first. We have to look after ourselves first or we will be bankrupt soon.
What you say is most certainly true. It is rational; it is reasonable. God gave us brains and the ability to work. Problem: even with all our brains, all our ability, all our work, we still don’t have the resources to do it ourselves. We don’t have enough money, enough people, we lack the skills or we are just plain too old to do anything. We cannot grow, we cannot help those in need around us. We are stuck in scarcity and need. This is true. We see scarcity, poverty, old age, declining numbers. We cannot!
We cannot feed ourselves. We cannot feed our neighbor. We cannot grow our church. We cannot love our neighbor, in many cases we don’t even speak the same language. Truth is, we cannot be righteous before God. We cannot make satisfaction for our own sins. We cannot love our neighbor as ourselves for we suffer from a scarcity of love, a scarcity of forgiveness for others, a scarcity of compassion as well. We cannot escape death. We cannot escape God’s wrath and punishment. No amount of resources, money, ability, or work will or can provide for our needs much less for the needs of others.
Even if all the world were bread and fish and money, and if you worked 24/7, there would still be scarcity: a lack of love, a lack of forgiveness. For man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Without Jesus coming to us with his word, without faith in his word, we are nothing and we have nothing. For Jesus tells us, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
But, that fact of the matter is, we have Jesus. We have been baptized into Him. He has made us children of God. In the Sacrament of the Altar we are nourished and supplied with righteousness before God and with love for our neighbor. We have Jesus. And if we have Jesus, nothing is lacking. We have everything we need. Jesus takes our 5 loaves and 2 fish and multiplies them with his word and blessing. He takes our minimal wealth, our old age, our few numbers, our insufficient work and labor, and turns our scarcity into an abundance. With Jesus we have abundance of food and drink. With Jesus we have no scarcity at all because he supplies what we lack. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness, and he shall supply all these things. If you have Jesus you have satisfaction for your sins. If you have Jesus you have eternal life. Not even death can take that away from you. If you have Jesus, there is no such thing as “I can’t.” For with God nothing is impossible. Abraham knew that when at 100 years of age he was still waiting for a son. Moses knew that when he was trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army. David knew that when he put a stone into his sling and shot it at Goliath. Martin Luther knew that when he defied Emperors and Popes, and sneered at Satan and death.
This is what Jesus wants us to learn and believe from this miracle sermon. Without Jesus, even our abundance is nothing, is worthless rubbish, is but loss. But with Jesus, the kingdom of heaven and all its riches are ours. Amen.